Saturday, October 18, 2008

The Enchantress of Florence – novel by Salman Rushdie

The story starts with a yellow haired westerner on a bullock cart on the road to Sikri, the capital of Emperor Akbar. He calls himself as Mogor dell Amore and lands in the royal court of Akbar claiming that he has secrets of the family to reveal. He shocks the court with his claim that he is the son of the lost Moghul princess, Qara Koz, the youngest sister of Akbar´s grand father Babar. The story causes confusion and incites emotions among the members of the royal household. Akbar is fascinated by the audacious character of Mogol dell Amore who outwits the other members of the royal court with his intellect and sharpness. He enjoys the tall tales and fantastic fables of the ingenious European.

Qara Koz, later known as Angelica, is the enchantress of Florence, known for her irresistible beauty and magical power of enchantment. She commands her own destiny in a man´s world during the medieval times. She is captured as a war booty by a Uzbeg warlord, then by the Emperor of Persia and finally she becomes the lover of Argalia, a Florentine soldier of fortune. Angelica has a servant girl who looks exactly like her. She includes the servant in the threesome entertainment of her male lovers with kamasutra skills. The Enchantress is a strong-willed and clear headed woman who lets her heart host the men of her choice. But when she reaches the cross road, she chooses her next destination without letting her heart cloud her mind. When her last lover is killed in Florence, she decides to take her final journey, this time to the New World.

This is the story which straddles the west and the east through the middleeast. It is about how the culture and mindset of east and west understood each other and interacted in those times. Rushdie has used the Moghul court of Akbar and the Renaisance Florentine society to bring out their characteristics vividly. Akbar, was, of course, ahead of his time with his enlightened approach and freedom of thought.

Rushdie has delved into the features of Hinduism, Christianity and Islam, using the character of Akbar as a thinker. Akbar is not a believer in the unquestionable superiority of his religion. He learns, understands and respects the other faiths. He entertains doubts, like the Hindu sages, about himself, his empire, religions and the universe. As a true philosopher he is caught between the empire and self, cruelty and tenderness, treachery and loyalty, war and peace, fantasies and pragmatism.

Argalio is an inimitable adventurer. He is part of the group of three Florentine boys Niccolò Machiavelli and Ago Vespucci who grow up together with different dreams. Machiavelli writes the book called as Prince, an advisory to the kings, while Ago becomes a merchant. All three meet at the end. The other two are also captivated by the charm of the Enchantress, the lover of Argalia .

Salman Rushdie has excelled himself yet again with this story of magical realism. He connects the Moghul court with the Florentine society, fantasy with facts , love with sex and magic with reality. Rushdie excels in story telling in his own unique and entertaining way blending history with fables. Rushdie lays out a buffet of love, romance, magic, wonder, politics, religion, history , the west and the east. He is profound and profane, sarcastic and sagacious, poetic and mysterious. Rushdie has done lot of research, which is evident in the details of his story telling. He has given a long list of books he went through for this novel.

Here are some excerpts from the book
- there is a weakness that comes over men at the battle´s end, when they become aware of the fragility of life. At such time, men can think of nothing but the women´s embraces, the healing words whispered by the women and the joy of losing themselves in the fatal labyrinth of love.
- she found his vanity seductive. She was in love with his faults
- when a prince takes power he should do his worst right away, because after that his every deed will strike his subjects as an improvement on the way he started out.
- all true believers have good reason for disbelieving in every god except their own, said Birbal, and so it is they who, between them, give me all the reasons for believing in none.

Rushdie had kept me spellbound to the magical journey of the Enchantress and fulfilled my craving for and addiction to magical realism.

2 comments:

Laryssa said...

Thanks for the detailed review of Rushdie's newest book! Too Shy to Stop writer Nehla just wrote a review too. You can read her review here.

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